UPDATED 8:45 p.m.
CHAMPAIGN — Fire department investigators believe a million-dollar fire early Wednesday morning at a west Champaign apartment building was likely caused by the improper disposal of smoking materials.
Champaign Fire Department spokeswoman Dena Schumacher said Thursday that the fire at Stonegate Village Apartments on West Springfield Avenue began on the balcony of a first floor apartment at Building T. Investigators have concluded it began after smoking materials were improperly disposed.
Schumacher wouldn't say what led investigators to come to this conclusion.
"The investigators look at the burn patterns and the charring, and they bring in a dog to sniff for the presence of different substances," Schumacher said.
Fifteen occupants of the building in the complex got out safely as fire quickly spread from a first-floor apartment and up the outside of the building to the roof about 3:40 a.m. Wednesday. Insurance estimates for the building put the loss at a million dollars.
Stephanie Funkhouser, office manager for Royse & Brinkmeyer Apartments, the property management company that owns Stonegate Village Apartments, said a website has been created at www.roysebrinkmeyer.com at the link “fire relief effort” to help connect those in need with those who want to help.
Information is also available at this Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RoyseBrinkmeyer
“Not all of the families need help, but some were without renter’s insurance, and find themselves desperate for assistance,” she said.